Now that I’ve got your attention via my rather provocative topic title, let me get started.
I’m a very experienced hearing aid user who has been has been using hearing aids for about 10 years. I’m a very busy professional who has a busy life. My needs really test the capabilities of the hearing aids I’ve tested and worn. I’m an exec in the high tech market, I play guitar, I’m into teaching martial arts, I’ve got 4 kids…and the list goes on. After testing many hearing aids over the years, the ones I have liked the best are the Phonak Audeo S Smart IXs that I have been currently wearing for the last 2 years. IMHO, these are excellent aids (when setup properly) and probably the best on the market when it comes to speech in noisy environments like restaurants, etc. There Stereo Zoom feature of these hearing aids puts them in a class by themselves. If you do a search on this forum, you will find a bunch of detailed threads that I posted showcasing my first experiences with the Smart IX’s when they were first released with the new Spice platform.
So…a year ago, my audiologist asked me if I would like to try out the Lyrics for 30 days. He knows I am a very fussy user and I think he was interested in seeing what a very experienced hearing aid user would think of the Lyrics given all the marketing blab surrounding these new long term use hearing aids. I happily agreed and visited his office for an initial visit about a year ago. Turns out my ear canals were too small for the Lyric but he offered to call me back if and when the newer, smaller version of the Lyric was released (i.e. Lyric 2). Three weeks ago he called me to indicate that he had received the Lyric 2 at his office and I went in a couple of days later to try them out. The new Lyric 2 is about 20% smaller than the previous version and my ear canals luckily fell into the range of the new product. After examining my ears for the fitting, he found that I had some wax and dead skin buildup in my canals and after removing it, he asked me to wait another week for the ear canal to properly heal. I came back the following week and my ear was still red. Yesterday I went back again and he was finally able to fit me with the Lyric 2 hearing aids.
I know what many of your are thinking. What a waste of time. Lyric is analog. Lyric is kinda yucky in that it sits in your ear for long periods of time. Lyric is crazy expensive. Comparing Lyric to the Spice platform is just silly and dumb. Yup…I know all that. That being said…I was intrigued and I figured it would be interesting to me and helpful to other people to get a real, down to earth view of this breakthrough product.
So…I got fitted yesterday. Basically, the audiologist has a box of dummy Lyrics of all different sizes that are used to figure out the right size for you. The new Lyric 2 has a much wider range of sizes than Lyric 1 given its smaller size. The Audi first measured the depth of my ear canals with a small color coded probe and then tried out a couple of sizes of dummy aids until he got the right fit. The dummy Lyrics were inserted with a special tool that allows the audi to make sure the aids are inserted into the proper depth. Once the proper dummy aids are inserted, you are asked to practice removing the dummy aids with a special removal tool that can be used to take out the Lyrics if you have an issue. Once that was done, the audi swabbed out my ear canals with alcohol and then inserted the actual Lyric 2 aids into my ears.
It actually hurt a tiny bit when the hearing aids were pushed into position but once the insertion tool was removed, the pain stopped. You could still feel something was in your ear but after a few hours, I wasn’t aware that anything was in my left ear. The right ear hurt a bit but by the following morning, the pain was almost gone. Once the hear aids were inserted, the audi stuck a probe in both ears and after a quick beep, the hearing aids were programmed and turned on. Voila…ready to rock!!
So its now been 24 hours and I suspect that you are all waiting to see what I think. So here are my initial impressions. I will post more stuff as long as I keep these things in my ears.
From a purely physical perspective, the Lyric2s are really kinda cool. They go so deep in your canals that you can’t really see them or feel them even if you stick your little finger in your ear. They really are invisible…and I don’t have very big ear canals. Now that the pain is gone on the right side, you really don’t notice that they are there. You don’t bump them with your glasses. You can use your cell phone like a normal person. There is no feedback. You can use headphones or any other thing that goes on your ear with really no issues. They make you feel kinda normal again from a purely physical perspective. After wearing BTEs and mini BTEs for 10 years…this is really quite amazing. In other words, the concept is really quite good. You can still adjust the volume by using a small magnetic wand that is provided and this is quite easy to do. You can also turn off the hearing aids at night which is also useful. I tried sleeping with them on last night but after 10 years of sleeping in silence with no hearing aids on, I found that the sound of my wife tossing and turning along with my furnace turning on/off kinda kept waking me up…hehehe.
Now the more important points. How do they sound?
Despite what they say about occlusion and deep fitting aids, there is lots of occlusion. Maybe I’m just a fussy person and I’ve been spoiled by my open fit Smart IXs for the last couple of years. That being said…I don’t like the occlusion. Its annoying. The sound quality of the amplification is a real mixed bag. In general, they sound kinda dull compared to the Smart IXs. I’m not sure how to describe this other than to say the Smart IXs have a big sound across the entire frequency range. The highs are brilliant and the open fit allows natural base in through your ear canals. Unlike the Smart IXs, the Lyric doesn’t really amplify anything below 200 hz and because your ears are totally plugged by the aids, you don’t get any natural sound to supplement the amplification. This means that everything lacks base and sounds kinda thin. The other issue is that the Smart IXs provide all kinds of digital enhancing of the signal by changing the directionality of the mikes and by focusing on sounds using digital algorithms. Given that Lyric is analog, you don’t have this going on and everything sounds a bit muffled. it may be that I’ve just gotten used to the Smarts IXs and my brain needs time to adapt…not sure. At this point, my personal feeling is that the digital technologies change and adapt to the sound environment and this provides a higher level of clarity. Lyric being an analog device, doesn’t have these capabilities and you are just hearing the sound as it hits your ear with no enhancing, etc. Now that being said, for some reason, Music (i.e. radio, iPod, playing the guitar) sounds quite a bit better than the Smart IXs. I’m not sure why. Maybe this is just a programming issue with the Smart IXs that could be fixed with some modifications to the programming. That being said, I have a music program on the Smart IXs so I’m not sure why the Lyric 2 hearing aids sound better when I play the guitar. Go figure. The other interesting thing is that the Lyrics do give you a wonderful sense of directionality compared to conventional aids. You definitely know where things are when you hear a sound from behind.
So…physically Lyric 2 delivers as promised. Soundwise…I’m really not so sure. I don’t like the occlusion. The big test will be how they perform in a noisy restaurant…which I know the Smart IXs do quite well. If the Lyrics perform really poor in noise, I just may end up pulling them and ending the trial early. I really don’t see myself going back to the days of pretending I can hear when we are in a noisy place. Plus…my audi just updated my Smart IXs to the new Spice+ firmware version so I suspect that my favorite hearing aids just got better.
Anyways…I will keep posting my impressions and answering questions if people are interested. As always…I’m hoping my comments will be helpful to others who are looking for answers.